Public hearing set on new Big Bay Lake dam

Final approval for a new dam at Big Bay Lake in Lamar County could come as soon as May.

DEQ has set a March 29 public hearing on the proposal.

The agency says developer Chip Tatum has submitted a construction plan to state officials which has already been reviewed by DEQ-approved engineers.

The original earthen dam collapsed March 12, 2004, sending 3.5 billion gallons of water roaring through Lamar and Marion counties, smashing dozens of homes and leaving Big Bay property owners high and dry.

Some owners have expressed concern over the date of the public hearing, which is just two weeks after the third anniversary of the dam break. They say the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit expires after three years.

But state officials say the approval process has been slowed by the lawsuits filed against the developer and the state by homeowners below the lake.

If the rebuilding project gains approval of the permit board in May, officials say it's up to the developer to set a timetable for construction.